Why regional perspectives matter for international ICT policy

Why regional perspectives matter for international ICT policy

By Naser A. Bin Hammad, Head of Strategic Partnership and International Relations for the United Arab Emirates’ Space Agency

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are now a key engine of global economic growth.

The rapid pace of technological innovation is creating millions of new jobs and opportunities across key sectors, such as finance, automotive, and healthcare, just to name a few.

In addition, emerging technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing hold great potential to improve people’s lives at a scale and speed never before seen.

Indeed, ICTs will be vital to accelerating progress on each of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But how will we ensure that these opportunities are realized for everyone in a safe and trusted way? This is a critical question. And in today’s interconnected, global world – in which data has been called ‘the new oil’ – it is more important than ever before.

ICTs vital role in international relations

That’s why a growing range of policy decisions surrounding ICTs are playing an increasingly vital role in international relations and diplomacy.

As national governments weigh how best to use the tools at their disposal to modernize their economies and foster ICT growth to improve the lives of their citizens, they are confronted with business, regulatory, privacy, and security issues that are international in nature. They are not deciding these issues in a vacuum.

Now more than ever, we need in-depth international cooperation to balance strategic interests so that all can benefit from this ongoing ‘digital revolution’ – while we also mitigate the risks.

In this regard, the discussions about what the latest ICT developments and concerns bring to the political agenda in contemporary international relations – and how they influence the overall relations regionally and globally – are becoming some of the most important areas of study.

The importance of regional priorities

There is a strong need to focus on regional priorities.

Consider, for example, the views and experience of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with its important contributions in promoting the development goals among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) the Member States.

The great new challenges of the digital era show almost on a daily basis why ICTs have become central to the UAE government’s plans to implement the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, a range of studies has shown why and how the UAE, working with the other GCC Member States, must harness the latest technologies to build our own societies in the 21st century.

Thanks, in part, to regional and global cooperation and investment, we have made great strides already – and we stand ready to provide assistance that was useful on a regional and wider international scene, to help others better prepare to face the challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In this sense, specific research and studies would be important to shed more light on practical and real-time examples and to identify, discuss and propose measures and ideas around the most important aspects and factors that play primary roles in strengthening the key pillars and sectors of the economy and society in the UAE and Gulf region.

More knowledge, more sharing

From my work and educational experience, I have realized that the current transformation of modern societies requires a high level of interaction if we are to achieve the priorities of sustainable development.

A growing range of policy decisions surrounding ICTs are playing an increasingly vital role in international relations and diplomacy.

ICTs play an extremely important role in promoting new repositories of knowledge and information. The capturing, storage and interpretation of Big Data – and the use of AI to add insights we couldn’t previously see, will help to speed our ability to gain key knowledge to build smarter cities and communities. We could make big leaps if, for example, relevant secondary data, gathered from reliable sources such as the World Bank, the ITU, and other UN agencies, could be collated and analyzed using data mining and visualization techniques.

The creation of new value through new knowledge can intensify activities of crucial importance for the growth of nations. In turn, the creation, development, and governance of knowledge societies are rising as pivotal aims of policymakers concerned with implementing the SDGs.